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Condo tower planned across from The Barn


Condo tower planned across from The Barn

What will developers offer in exchange for a height exemption? asks Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. IMAGE 1 OF 1
Lots of time for community input, says Wong-Tam
Development firm Menkes is proposing a 30-storey condo tower on what is now a parking lot at the corner of Church and McGill streets. The 322-unit tower is much taller and denser than zoning allows and requires an exemption from city hall, but local Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says there is plenty of time for the community to have input on the project before it is assessed.

The tower at 365 Church St would have 106 feet of frontage on Church and would feature ground-level retail. On McGill St, the application proposes a three-storey podium with condo townhouses.

The new development would be across the street from The Barn nightclub and adjacent to the low-rise residential neighbourhoods on McGill and Granby streets.

The city’s official plan emphasizes that towers should be set back from the street and transition to neighbourhood-scaled buildings to mitigate aesthetic, privacy and light-blockage concerns.

Wong-Tam says her office received the application just before New Year’s Day and that planning staff are reviewing the application and drawing up recommendations in advance of the February meeting of Toronto and East York Community Council. She says she hasn’t yet spoken with the developers about their plan.

A recent proposal to build a condo tower at the corner of Church and Gloucester streets sparked outrage from community groups over the loss of heritage architecture. But because the McGill property is a parking lot, heritage is not expected to be a major obstacle to this proposal.

“[City planning staff] do believe it’s underutilized because it’s a surface parking lot,” Wong-Tam says. “They believe it’s a site that can bear development. I don’t know if it can bear 30 storeys.”

Wong-Tam says she has plenty of questions that the developer must satisfy before she’ll give her approval:  “Are there any family-sized units or just bachelors? Will there be affordable-housing options in the building, considering we have a large population that’s Ryerson students? What are they going to offer the community in exchange for height and density?”

But the primary consideration should be what the community wants, Wong-Tam says. To that end, she’ll be consulting with the McGill-Granby Village Residents’ Association, the Church St BIA and Ryerson University.

“There’s enough for us to work together on,” Wong-Tam says. “I would like to see the local residents and business owners sit down and talk about what they’d like to see there. The residents will have a say in how they want the neighbourhood built up. Maybe [Ryerson] will look for more student housing, office space. Planning has taken place in a vacuum because we haven’t had a model for communications.”

Wong-Tom says she’s taken steps to include more residents in the planning process by expanding the required-notice geography on all projects in her ward. She’s insisting that all residents, occupants and business owners living within one city block in all directions receive advance notice of all construction proposals. She’s also staffed her office with experts in social, urban and environmental planning.

“The concept of urban planning should be fully integrated with social planning and economic planning,” she says. “We don’t build buildings without people or without regard to economic activity.”

In the future, Wong-Tam hopes to launch a website that will track development projects in the ward, which stretches from the lower end of Mount Pleasant Cemetery to Queen St between University Ave and Sherbourne St. Development proposals can currently be found by searching through documents on the City of Toronto website.

“There’s so many applications right now and many in the early stages; we’re just going through the data,” she says. “I’ll be honest. I’ve got development files coming at me from every place south of Bloor at such an incredible volume.”

Track registered development applications on the City of Toronto web site at toronto.ca/planning/developmentapplications/
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Lets Do Nothing
Yup, lets put as many road blocks in front of new development as is possible. Lets make sure that nothing new and exciting happens within the Village and that things stay the same for the next 20 years. Lets forget about renewal of any scale. Lets sit back and watch as other world-class cities continue to do what this area of Toronto should have started 10 to 15 years ago. Sad.
Our Village, Our Voice
If we want to keep our Village a village, high-rise proposals like this need to be curtailed or severely modified. Otherwise, Church Street will quickly become a canyon corridor, much like Bay Street is now. One tower on the edge of the village will quickly grow to two, three, seven...and very soon we will have no village to speak of. One of the main reasons those condos sell at premium prices (proximity to one of the most distinctive human-scale, heritage enclaves in downtown Toronto) will disappear, and the community will be destroyed in the process.

Keep in mind there is a tower going up on Church at Gloucester, and one more at Isabella. Densification is the buzz-word du jour, but height does not always equal progress. It is important to maintain the integrity of our precious neighbourhoods in order to keep our city attractive and livable. Our vibrant and unique Village is an important economic and cultural asset to this city. It attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals every year. We must take care that it not be destroyed through irresponsible development.
what does it look like?
Menkes is the same company that developed 25 York St (Telus Tower) which I think is a pretty cool building. I don't share the vitriole of the above commenter who went on to bash our Ward 27 Councillor, but I do wonder why the article was so focused on Kristyn Wong-Tam's reaction. It would stand to benefit all Torontonians if we educated ourselves about property development and urban planning issues. If you follow the link at the bottom of the article it brings up 73 new development sites just in Ward 27. Toronto is transforming before our eyes, and if you believe the rumour that we're set to overtake Chicago in 20 years, that means bigger buildings and more of them. It's going to be hard to keep the Village to scale, or stop projects altogether. The housing that exists now will be un-liveable in 20 years, there is a need for new spaces to open up. Let's just hope there are enough good jobs to go with them or this all is a pipe dream.
Build It!!!
Let them build all the condos they want in downtown Toronto and as high as they want. There is plenty of room for more high-rise erections in this town. Toronto could definitely benefit from more tumescence! The local residents should have nothing to say in these matters. Property owners have had their natural property rights essentially confiscated for far too long by left-wink pinkos like Wong-Tam for far too long. For someone who made her own bundle out of real-estate she is being a bit hypocritical in opposing these new development proposals. Wong-Tam in no way represents the majority of voters in her own ward. She got only 28% of the vote with a 50% turnout
so only about 14% of the eligible voters actually voted for her and she won only because the opposition was fragmented among too many other candidates in Toront's idiotic first-past-the-post electoral system which is designed to ensure the election of village idiots. If there had been a run-off election to ensure true democracy then a much more sensible candidate, aka Ken Chan, would have won.
Let's just ignore Wong-Tam and all the other anti-development pinkos and build to the sky. Toronto needs to become more like Honk Kong and all the Wong-Tams can relocate to Upper Duckwater if they do not like it.
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